Even if we need to duck, things are looking up.
As someone who spends time researching and writing on prospects, I've been looking forward to the Draft episode ever since the six-episode project was announced. While there were reservations about how well the team could pull it off, it didn't disappoint. After a player-heavy opening episode and an executive-heavy second show, episode three of "Becoming Wild" found the balance needed for fans to get the best look into the changes for this season and beyond. The episode wasn't perfect by any means, but despite some hiccups the team was able to showcase the preparations players, coaches and management make for the NHL Draft and beyond.
Unlike the last two episodes, the overlying theme was based on a simple philosophy rather than an action. There were no calls of "getting younger" like Chuck Fletcher had done before. Instead the even-keeled general manager was shown as not being afraid to make a bold choice and be aggressive. That was important because with St. Paul hosting the rest of the NHL, the onus was on Minnesota to make a statement and that is exactly what they did. As a selling point for both next season and the group in charge of the organization, "Becoming Wild" was thankfully able to show this and give a clear viewpoint of why the philosophy is needed.
Unfortunately, not everything was as clear. With an episode where there were many pieces and people being showcase, some did not mesh as well as others. The interview process featuring two local prospects (future Gopher Mike Reilly and Edina forward Steven Fogarty) ironically picked in spots where the Wild had no selections (Reilly went in the fourth round to Columbus while Fogarty went in the third to the New York Rangers) was interesting to look in on and get an idea of what teams ask. However there were a few other segments which seemed to just placate the "we need Minnesotans" crowd. I understand that the Wild straddle a fine line in the State of Hockey but those took away from the organization and weren't needed.
Similarly, the scene with Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner was very underwhelming and seemed to be used to sell the importance of playing well in the minors. The filmmakers had no idea what was in store later that night - as the scene took place in a limo before the Draft - but it's unfortunate that there wasn't a Wild player who went on camera to give a reaction to seeing teammate Brent Burns traded. Even if it was a canned answer being sad about losing Burns but happy with gaining Devin Setoguchi, the contrast between Fletcher and Clutterbuck would have been better.
However despite the few speed bumps, most of "Becoming Wild" episode three was smooth sailing. The filmmakers did a great job showing what happens during the NHL Draft in terms of trade opportunities and what goes on at the team table. I was in attendance during the Draft and the episode was accurate to the crowd's reaction; especially during the Burns trade announcement where the Xcel Energy Center sounded like they got kicked in the gut before slowly (and I mean slowly...you can hear the one person, who is Dan, clapping for getting Charlie Coyle) coming back to life. Learning about a proposed trade the team rejected (#28 for #41 and #46) also looks a lot better because of a trade which unfortunately wasn't shown (#60 for #71 and #101) due to Minnesota getting a player who "fell like they always do" in Mario Lucia
The filmmakers were also able to do what the Wild needed as a team making aggressive moves and make those new acquisitions look like stars. Following Dany Heatley and Setoguchi finding a place to live gave off a sense of the two authentically excited and wanting to be, bad geography regardless, members of Minnesota. Despite "Becoming Wild" also being an in-house production, it didn't like the usual canned answers one gets with "PONDcast" (another Wild in-house production) and came off as organic. The same thing happened with first round pick Jonas Brodin. Despite not diving into what type of player Brodin is or how he is the best available player and can help the Minnesota prospect pool, just seeing the excitement on his face and how Brodin handles himself with media questions sells the kid better than anything the team has done.
Coming out of the third episode, I, along with the State of Hockey, am buying the philosophy the team is selling and that it needs to come on all levels. These episodes need management like Chuck Fletcher, media guys like Kevin Gorg and Michael Russo and the players themselves as each facet gives a different viewpoint which together paint the big picture of a team embracing its mantra of getting younger and better. Some come close to doing so (especially Russo, who in this and his writing shows a knack for making complex situations seem simple) but like everything a little balance is needed. While the first couple episodes of "Becoming Wild" were unable to achieve that balance, episode three has found its stride. If the rest of the episodes are anything like this, Minnesota fans will want to skip to October faster than episode three flew by free agency.
"Becoming Wild" Episode Three is available here.